IELTS Listening Strategy # 16 Check Meaning and Grammar in Sentence Completion

Sentence completion questions are similar to gap-fill questions. They test three main areas:

  1. Your ability to listen to and understand wordsand synonymsin real situations.
  2. Your ability to write words with correct spelling (more on this in the next strategy).
  3. Your ability to write words with correct grammar.

Remember, the spelling and grammar of the sentences you complete must be correct, otherwise they will be marked incorrect, even if you have the right base form of the word.

Therefore, before transferring your sentence completion answer from the question booklet to the answer sheet, quickly read the sentence over to make sure the grammar and spelling of the answer looks correct.

Before the test you should review grammar for the following areas: singular and plural nouns, countable and uncountable nouns and subject-verb agreement.

Common mistake with plural nouns

In almost every IELTS listening test, candidates make mistakes with the plural ‘s’ for nouns. In English, the plural ‘s’ is used when we talk about things ‘in general’.

For example, I like reading books. Of course, it’s not just one book I read, but several, so I need to use the plural ‘s’.

In the listening test, a question may appear as follows:

Sentence completion:

He usually uses _____________ when painting portraits of people.


From the listening you hear information about the man using a ‘photograph’. In this case we need to use the word ‘photographs’ to describe the situation that happens in general.

This is because the sentence is focusing on the man’s ‘usual’ situation when painting, not just one portrait. We also get clues from the plural nouns ‘portraits’ and ‘people’. He uses many photographs for many portraits of people, so the correct answer should be:

He usually uses photographs when painting portraits of people.